Marketing Recap: March 2019

As a Leeds design agency, we’re always in the know with the latest marketing stories. Whether they’re in the realms of marketing, design or digital, there’s always something that grabs our attention.

To help our existing clients (and anyone in Yorkshire looking for some business inspiration) we’ve rounded up the biggest marketing stories from March 2019.

Amazon Dashes Off

One of Amazon’s stranger ideas was the Dash Button, which made buying popular household goods much easier. Launched in 2015, a Dash Button literally took the form of a small plastic button, labelled with the brand of a specific product. By pressing the button, you would order the product in question, getting it delivered with minimum fuss.

Earlier this month, though, Amazon discontinued the Dash Button for good. Existing buttons will continue to function—for some time, anyway—with their demise driven by several different factors.

A key blow to Dash Buttons came in the form of a German court ruling back in January. It argued that since Dash Buttons don’t give any real information about the product you’re ordering (including their price) they broke consumer protection legislation. An Amazon spokesperson said the company believed the buttons complied with German law, and would fight the ruling through other legal channels.

However, the writing may have been on the wall for Amazon’s Dash Buttons anyway. As websites like CNET have pointed out, the Dash Buttons launched in a very different shopping environment to the one we have now. Products like the Amazon Echo smart speaker make ordering products as simple as pressing a button, while also playing music, setting alarms and other useful features. Amazon have also launched various other services that supersede the Dash Button, such as a virtual online version.

If we remember them at all, we’ll probably see Dash Buttons as the forerunner of today’s digital lifestyles. With devices like smartphones and smart speakers allowing us to buy stuff online, a dedicated shopping button seems laughably redundant.

Instant Ecommerce for Instagram Brands

Instagram has been working towards becoming a personalized digital shopping centre since Facebook acquired the social media platform back in 2012. Now Instagram has launched the new ‘Checkout’ feature.

Over 20 brands are onboard with the feature, which enables them to sell to their audience faster and easier than ever before. Shoppable posts were launched last year, but the new checkout gives users the option of instant purchasing. For a fee brands can opt in to the checkout feature, and users have their payment details directly connected to the social media platform.

smartphone with Instagram app

The new feature has been met with mixed reviews, especially by brands. Perviously, the main focus for brands on Instagram has been engagement and leading consumers towards other marketing channels of the brand. With the new instant purchase function of checkout, the fear is that too much of an emphasis will be placed on selling, with the engaging content (and fans) being lost in the process. Others argue that checkout simplifies shopping for Instagram users who are already fans of a brand and ready to purchase.

Gaming the System

Google has recently unveiled a new streaming service called Google Stadia, which will allow its users to play games on virtually any device. The service is due to launch in 2019 in Europe, America and Canada, and will be closely integrated with YouTube. In theory, a person could go from watching footage of a video game to playing that game on the same screen in a matter of moments. Since the service runs through phones, TVs and tablets (rather than specialised hardware, like a PlayStation) it’s much easier to start playing a game.

Google Stadia reflects a hunger for simple, on-demand content that the likes of Netflix and Amazon have popularised. However, Google’s service faces problems that other streaming services do not. We don’t know which games will be available, or how much the service will cost to join. We also don’t know how our internet speeds will affect game performance. While Google’s infrastructure will (supposedly) ensure our games are lag-free, we’ve yet to see how that works in practice with wildly differing internet speeds.

More importantly, we don’t know if Google will commit to Stadia in the long run. As Business Insider points out, Google’s history is littered with abandoned projects like Google Glass, Google Fiber and Google Wave. It’s not hard to imagine Google giving up on Stadia a few years in, especially since gaming behemoths like Microsoft struggled for years to make their games consoles profitable.

Although Google Stadia is an intriguing idea, it needs to balance accessibility with the ease of use we all demand. If it can’t, it risks joining the likes of OnLive on history’s scrapheap.

Food For Thought

At the moment, a key concern for many consumers is plastic—how much we’re using, and how much we’re throwing away. A trio of supermarkets are taking a progressive approach to plastic packaging in their branches.

At the moment, a key concern for many consumers is plastic—how much we’re using, and how much we’re throwing away. A trio of supermarkets are taking a progressive approach to plastic packaging in their branches.

The Yorkshire Post reports that Morrisons is no longer using expanded polystyrene in its food and drink packaging. The move will take 600 tonnes of the material—which is difficult to recycle—out of circulation per year, with cardboard and recyclable plastic replacing it. Morrisons have also promised to make all their own-brand packaging eco-friendly by 2025.

Tesco have taken a similar approach; they have launched a plastic-free trial, removing plastic packaging from 45 products. They have also promised to make all their packaging recyclable, and are banning hard-to-recycle plastics this year.

Asda are approaching the plastic problem from a slightly different angle. The supermarket is planning to introduce products made from recycled plastic, such as cushions, blouses and dresses. In addition to this, Asda have committed to using sustainable viscose and cotton by 2025, and educating their customers about how sustainable their clothes are.

Marmite Goes Nuts

Marmite has a unique reputation amongst sandwich spreads; people either love it or hate it, to the point ‘marmite’ is shorthand for anything deeply polarising. With the launch of their new product range, Marmite is banking on this reputation and marketing tactic.

The Grocer reports that Marmite have unveiled a new marmite peanut butter. Consisting of 90% peanut butter (and 10% marmite) it joins a popular nut butter scene in the UK. It’s also capitalising on the way people consume Marmite; several customers have shared recipes online that mix peanut butter with Marmite anyway.

The new Marmite peanut butter retains the familiar packaging. Source: The Grocer

The peanut butter is (arguably) capitalising on current trends in our buying habits. It uses no palm oil or added sugar, reflecting the anti-palm oil message Iceland tried (and failed) to promote. It also joins a reduced salt variant of marmite, which lowers the salt content by 25%. However, since 100g of Marmite peanut butter contains 580 kcals, it may be a tough sell to anyone watching their waistline.

Marmite peanut butter is an interesting story for several reasons. It suggests a shift away from marmite’s polarising brand, by producing something a bit more user-friendly. It also demonstrates significant engagement with social media, since the new product reflects the way we consume and discuss it online.

In many respects, marmite peanut butter is marketing done right, and we’re interested to see what the company produces next.

Birds Eye Goes Vegan

Marmite isn’t the only well-known brand venturing into a new industry. Birds Eye announced its first ever vegan range, which will be sold under the name Green Cuisine.

The soy-free and wheat-free products will take on competitor Quorn (which is currently the UK’s favourite vegan brand) to shake things up in the vegan food scene.

Birds Eye green cuisine brand

Green Cuisine launches. Source: Vegan Food Living

We’re looking forward to seeing if the Green Cuisine will be a green machine type brand in the vegan range.

What’s trending? Hit or Miss? 

In this section, we look at the biggest hits and misses of March’s social media scene.

Ryanair Falls from Grace—Miss

A British Airways plane made the news recently when it landed in the wrong country. Budget airline Ryanair attempted to capitalise on the mistake, but it seems to have backfired on them instead.

As BBC News reports, a BA flight bound for Düsseldorf landed in Edinburgh following a mix-up with the flight paperwork. In response to this, Ryanair posted a scathing tweet suggesting BA should brush up on their geography. The reply from other Twitter users was swift and immediate. Some criticised the airline’s customer service, while others pointed out Ryanair was guilty of the same mistake themselves.

 

Source: Twitter

Despite billing themselves as ‘Europe’s favourite airline’, Ryanair is no stranger to controversy and criticism. Last August Ryanair pilots launched a strike in five European countries, due to disputes over pay and working conditions. This led to Ryanair cancelling 400 flights, which affected 50,000 passengers. The company also faced criticism last year for failing to remove an aggressively racist passenger from one of their flights.

The key takeaway here is that criticising others on social media is rarely advisable, especially if you’re tweeting as a company. It’s all too easy for criticisms to become unprofessional and inappropriate, and if someone has as much dirty laundry as Ryanair, you can be sure other users will call them out on it. No matter how justified you feel you may be, consider the impact your tweets will have on your business—and your reputation.

Sonic the Hedgehog’s Redesign—Miss

Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the most famous characters in video games. The Blue Blur first appeared on the Sega Mega Drive in 1991, and despite mixed reviews over the years, Sonic games remain a fixture in today’s gaming scene. A movie inspired by the games has been announced, but a leaked design has sparked revulsion—and some creative solutions.

The Sonic the Hedgehog movie will be released later this year, but so far there’s been little marketing beyond a few teasers. A teaser poster was released late last year, and immediately drew criticism for the character’s odd proportions. Earlier this month a style guide for the movie leaked online; many people immediately took issue with Sonic’s design, and even one of Sonic’s creators, Yuji Naka, was critical of it.

In response to the leak, several people posted their own redesigns of Sonic online. By making a few minor tweaks to the leaked artwork, they tried to bring the design in line with the character they know and love. The main issue seems to be with Sonic’s eyes, which the movie design hasn’t replicated very well.

Source

Still, dodgy eyes may be the least of the movie’s concerns. For starters, video games are notoriously difficult to adapt for film. Poor adaptations of games like Doom, Tomb Raider and Street Fighter litter film history, while the Super Mario Bros. movie is widely considered one of the worst films ever made. 

Sonic is also a particularly odd choice for a movie adaptation. His games are infamous for corny, overwrought storytelling, with certain games (like 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog) notorious for awkward plotting. It’s difficult to see how anyone can pull a great story from a franchise that’s typically mishandled the concept. 

With this leak, and the hotly anticipated Detective Pikachu on the horizon, the Sonic movie is on the back foot from the beginning. So far it’s an excellent example of how not to market a movie.

Florida Man Birthday Scam—Miss

The US state of Florida has a reputation for wacky hijinks. A recent viral sensation has brought that idea into the spotlight, but it turns out it’s not the simple bit of fun you might think.

Internet users have been encouraged to Google the phrase ‘Florida Man’ followed by their birthday, and post the headline that comes up in the search. The challenge came from a Tumblr user known as gandalfsoda, while Twitter user swervin merv further popularised it. A quick Google search shows why it’s snowballed; Florida Man stories cover everything from pet zebras to creating a fake crime to get out of work.

 

The source of the Florida Man challenge. Image Source

It sounds harmless enough, but by taking part in the Florida Man challenge, web users are revealing useful personal information about themselves. As Ars Technica points out, many people use their real-world birthdays when constructing their internet profiles. By linking the two together, fraudsters can use this info (with other details you may have posted) to more easily hack into your internet accounts.

Unless you’ve restricted public access to your social media profile, taking part in the Florida Man challenge is a bad idea. However, there may be a silver lining to the story; by publicising the risks around the Florida Man challenge, media outlets may be helping web users think more carefully about similar challenges going forward. It never hurts to think twice about what you post online; in the vast majority of cases, what you post inevitably sticks around.

#BalanceforBetter—Hit

Since 1911, countries around the world recognise International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, either as a day of protesting to gain more rights for women or as a celebration of women’s many achievements over the years. 2019’s day was promoted with the hashtag #BalanceforBetter, which forms part of a yearlong campaign for women’s equality.

Women in different parts of the world have taken different approaches to the concept. Girls in Amsterdam, for instance, have been learning how to code and develop apps. Women in Ireland called for mass walkouts against harassment, precarious housing conditions, and a range of other issues.

The #BalanceforBetter hashtag has also been popular on Twitter, with many people using it to highlight their own events and achievements:

 

Source

Source

With many other events and promotions linked to the #BalanceforBetter hashtag, it’s safe to say this is one hashtag that’s captured our collective imaginations.


If you’re like to take your business to the next level, we could be the agency for you.

We’re a Leeds design agency offering a fantastic range of services. We provide design for print and web, SEO, social media marketing, marketing strategy and much more. What makes us different is our know-how within the industry, and our commitment to generating more business. Our team will work alongside your business and become an extension of your own.  

If this sounds like the support you’re after, browse our full range of services or call us on 0113 297 9900 today.